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Grandparents: How to play an active role

Family babysitters: Are you taking advantage?
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Being involved in the lives of your grandchildren can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience.  Sharing those things you love to do with them, and letting them educate you on their own view of the world is a precious gift.   It can equally be a cause of tension between you and the parents, so getting the balance right in a way that works for all three of you is the key to success.  Being a grandparent is a unique opportunity to create loving bonds with your grandchildren, and to strengthen those with your own children – here’s how:

What Role do You Want?

The needs of different circumstances vary, but in essence it is wise to be clear from the start about the type of grandparent you would like to be.  What is you dream?

  • Will you babysit?
  • Child mind for periods of time?
  • Have the grandchildren to stay overnight or for weekends?
  •  Be involved in school events?
  • Communicate by phone or email?
  • Come to stay at your grandchildren’s home?grandparents: How to play an active role

Having sorted this out in your own mind, it is then advisable to talk to your son or daughter and ascertain what their view of your role is.  It may be very different, with them anticipating a greater, lesser, or different degree of involvement altogether.  Being open with each other should enable you to agree boundaries that you can each respect, and get you off on the right foot from the start.

How to be a Good Grandparent

It all comes down to offering love, time, and support to your grandchildren.  We hear much about “quality time”, but this does not have to be stuffed full of outings, activities or games.  A walk in the woods, splashing in puddles, a trip to the park, making a cake, painting – these are all simple, fun, activities that provide ample opportunities for interaction and play.

As a grandparent you are less likely to be in a hurry than the busy parent who is constantly battling the clock with work and domestic responsibilities.  Your grandchildren will notice that difference and learn to love the quality of the time they have with you, however short or long it may be.

Share stories

Sharing stories about the family is another great way to engage with your grandchildren.  Most older kids will be interested to see some old family photos, and hear tales of things Mum or Dad used to get up to.  The sense of family this creates is like a warm blanket of security around your grandchildren.

On the theme of stories, reading to your grandchildren is a very simple and cheap activity.  Most children love stories, and once of a certain age will adore snuggling up to you and getting lost in a good tale.  In this modern era of electronic games and digital media the basics of good old-fashioned stories can become lost.  Taking time to enjoy a special book with your grandchild may help them develop a love of stories that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Become a silver surfergrandparents: How to play an active role

Not all grandparents live close by, and for some the distance may be marked by the fact they live in a different country.  Modern technology makes staying in touch easy, and web-cams, cheap phone calls, email and social media outlets are a perfect way to stay in touch.  If visits in either direction are possible, it can also be a great way for grandchildren to experience travel and a new place, perhaps giving the parents a break at the same time.

Some Pitfalls to Avoid

Occasional disagreements are sure to arise when many thinking adults are involved in the upbringing of a child.  There are a few classic pitfalls that seem to trip grandparents up with a degree of regularity, so being aware of these ahead of time should help you to avoid them:

  • You are not the parent, and should respect and try to support parental decisions even if you don’t agree with them
  • Overindulging the first few grandchildren.  You don’t know how many you will have, but try to avoid showering earlier grandchildren with time, love, and gifts that you cannot afford to repeat with subsequent ones
  • Buying affection.  Children are not daft, and will see through this.  Giving love and attention by doing things together that create happy memories is far more valuable
  • Ignoring rules and boundaries.  This is not only unfair to the grandchildren, but will almost inevitably cause conflict between you and the parents

 

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About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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